Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Sensemaking, Sense-censoring and Strategic Inaction: The Discursive Enactment of Power and Politics in a Multinational Corporation

Whittle, A.; Mueller, F.; Gilchrist, A.; Lenney, P.

Sensemaking, Sense-censoring and Strategic Inaction: The Discursive Enactment of Power and Politics in a Multinational Corporation Thumbnail


Authors

A. Whittle

A. Gilchrist

P. Lenney



Abstract

In this paper we contribute to knowledge of power and politics in international business by developing the understanding of the role of discourse and sensemaking in the subsidiary–headquarters relationship. Based on an ethnographic action research study in a British subsidiary of an American multinational corporation, we conduct an ethnomethodologically informed discourse analysis of the accounts, stories and metaphors through which power and politics in the subsidiary–headquarters relationship were created as social facts. We then broaden the analytic frame to trace longitudinally how these facts led the subsidiary managers to hide, dilute or restrict their ‘local sense’ from the headquarters, including their knowledge of the local market and their preferred strategic direction for the firm: a process we term sense-censoring. We reveal how the subsidiary used power and politics as reasoning procedures to decide against pursuing a preferred course of action, despite a strongly held belief to the contrary, due to anticipated reactions or counter-actions, thereby transforming potential strategic action into inaction. Sense-censoring is significant for international business management, we propose, because it impacts upon knowledge flows, innovation diffusion and organizational learning. We conclude by outlining the implications of systems of sense-censoring and strategic inaction for the management of global–local relations in multinational corporations.

Citation

Whittle, A., Mueller, F., Gilchrist, A., & Lenney, P. (2016). Sensemaking, Sense-censoring and Strategic Inaction: The Discursive Enactment of Power and Politics in a Multinational Corporation. Organization Studies, 37(9), 1323-1351. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840616634127

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 8, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 25, 2016
Publication Date 2016-09
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2020
Journal Organization Studies
Print ISSN 0170-8406
Electronic ISSN 1741-3044
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 9
Pages 1323-1351
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840616634127
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1299498

Files

Accepted Journal Article (742 Kb)
PDF

Copyright Statement
Whittle, A., Mueller, F. , Gilchrist, A. & Lenney, P. (2016). Sensemaking, Sense-censoring and Strategic Inaction: The Discursive Enactment of Power and Politics in a Multinational Corporation. Organization Studies 37(9): 1323-1351. Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). DOI: 10.1177/0170840616634127




You might also like



Downloadable Citations